50 Years Ago: The Political Organisation of the Working Class

The Political Organisation of the Working Class
When the worker has learnt his lesson; when be knows he must rely upon himself and upon his fellows what is he to do? How is he to apply his knowledge to matters of everyday importance to him? It is evidently futile for him to assert his independence of the other political factions if he is independently to strive for measures which those factions advocate. It is also useless for him to organise himself into a party which is unable to agree upon a working programme and a common line of action.

To us as Socialists it is clear that, the Liberals and the Tories having been thrown over as parties, the principles for which they work must also be thrown over, and that, therefore, anyone holding the opinions either of Liberalism or of Toryism must be left outside the workers’ party. The party of the workers has interests which have no common bond with Liberalism or Toryism, and the party of the workers must, therefore, steer clear of anything which is in any way allied with these parties.

The political party of the workers must be the reflex of the economic interests of the workers who are the propertyless class, in the same way as the other parties reflect the economic interests of the propertied class. We are then driven to the necessity of searching for the economic interest of the worker. And this we find in the principle that the working-class having created all the wealth of society are the rightful owners of that wealth. Every man should receive the product of his own labour, but as in modern society it is impossible to determine the portion which any individual adds to the value of the articles he helps to create, we must be content to let all those who labour remain joint owners of the aggregate product.

This, however, is not what obtains in modern society where the reverse is the case. In modern society to-day the non-producers of wealth are the joint owners of the aggregate amount of wealth produced. In this fact we have surely the true differentiation of the party of the workers from the party of the property-owners. And the first object of the political party of the workers, therefore, should be the securing for workers as a class the fruits of their own labour.


If they can only secure this they will have no need to worry about limiting the hours of work, securing a legal law of minimum, or returning to the status quo ante Taff Vale. These trifling matters will soon adjust themselves when the workers take as their own the product of their own labour. And resulting from this would come the necessity of the present property-owners, unable longer to live on the fruits of other men’s labour, working so as to secure their own livelihood.


English Hypocrisy and Russian Outrages


The huge wave of indignation that has lately been sweeping over the country on account of the massacres in Russia is typical of the hypocrisy of the capitalist-class and the ignorance of the man in the street. Big headlines and stirring articles have proved effective in arousing a strong and quite unjustified feeling against Russia. The English attitude towards Russian affairs has for long been intensely pharisaical, and its real origin, imperial and commercial jealousy in Asia, has been quite lost sight of by the public. . . .


This feeling is quite unjustified from a capitalist point of view, and further it is only hypocritical, for no one, except a Socialist, can with honesty support the working-class in its efforts towards freedom. Yet we find the same people that would cheerfully starve out English strikers or shoot them down if more convenient that ignored the fearful outrages in Colorado, and that approved the recent shooting of strikers in Italy, pretending to be horrified at the actions of their fellow-capitalists in Russia!